After finishing off a can of soda or bottle of water, finding a recycling receptacle for the used container is not always easy, let alone convenient. In many cases, aluminum, glass, paper and many other recyclables don’t make it to the appropriate container every single time – or even very often. Although the average overall recycling rate in the United States is 35 percent, sustainability leaders believe there are many missed opportunities in any given municipality. Recycling challenges like these are not only environmental burdens but also have economic and social impacts. In today’s world, local officials often lack the tools needed to complete a comprehensive life cycle assessment of the municipality’s recycling options and their associated economic, environmental and social (EES) impacts. As a result, the typical Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) management program is under optimized, creating a gap between how much is currently recycled and what could be recycled. Recognizing this need, an Ohio State team, comprised of business, sustainability and engineering experts, developed RecycleNow, a mobile application that analyzes community-specific MSW recycling scenarios in terms of EES benefits and impacts. Funded by the Alcoa Foundation, project leader Dr. Neil Drobny, a Fisher College of Business faculty member, assembled a group of professors, students and community leaders to research and understand the relationship between MSW recycling decisions and EES impacts. This approach began with researching the direct and indirect economic impacts and developing monetized estimates of environmental and social benefits. From this, the data was input into an Excel model, which is accessed by means of an easy to use mobile application. Drobny stated, “Our work led to the development of a first-of-a-kind decision-making tool for municipal planners and has the potential to drive municipal solid waste management, and recycling in particular, to new levels as a key component of community economic development.” That app? RecycleNow, a beta tool that runs on an Android tablet or PC, and requires an Android Emulator such as Bluestacks. The app analyzes six recyclables typically comprising 90 percent or more of an average community’s solid waste stream: paper, steel, glass, aluminum, plastic and organics. RecycleNow specifically shows the direct, indirect and induced benefits of an expanded recycling program across the full spectrum of environmental, economic and social impacts. Sources of benefits include, but are not limited to, the sale of recyclables, landfill costs avoided, water saved, greenhouse gas emissions avoided and jobs created. The team believes the barrier to expanding recycling programs across the country is not the cost of program infrastructure and operations, but the fact that valuable materials are wasted in a landfill. Mike Long, former Executive Director of the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, now a recycling consultant and co-leader of the project, explained, “As an example, a certain amount of aluminum is available in a community. However, only so much is collected for recycling and the rest ends up in a landfill.” Long further explains that the money saved through increased recycling rates is “found money” and can be used to develop a marketing campaign or buy more recycling containers. Viewed holistically, an expanded recycling program in a community can pay its own way. In just 15 months, the team developed the application and presented results to Alcoa, in Pittsburgh, PA. Drobny, Long, Relationship Manager Ryan Zinn and Student Project and Research Assistant Maggie Wehri presented the team’s findings on Monday, March 16th, 2015. Pleased with the progress, Alcoa representatives Tricia Napor, Alcoa Foundation; Beth Schmitt, Alcoa Director of Recycling, and Phil Helal, OSU Campus Representative, will be working with the Ohio State team to plan ways to extend the work to the point of developing RecycleNow into a commercially available tool for use by municipalities across the country. In addition to a comprehensive research report on the development of RecycleNow, students from the business school and student organization, Fisher Ink, the undergraduate business magazine, developed a user guide. Finance major, Devin Casey; Art and Business major: Maggie Wehri and Accounting major: Adam Zimmerman wrote and designed this guide for decision makers to utilize during app operation. Alcoa and the Ohio State team believe RecycleNow can be used as an education tool for municipality decision-makers to better understand the connectivity in decision-making and cost-benefit analysis of a life cycle assessment, as well as access recycling options and the associated EES costs and benefits. Ultimately, RecycleNow’s analysis shows just how impactful increasing recycling rates can be. For any additional information or comments, contact Dr. Neil Drobny at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ohio State Team Develops RecycleNow App
An Ohio State team of professors, students and community leaders have introduced an app showing their community the impact recycling can make.